Just Keep Your Mouth Shut!

At Eastridge, we’ve been reading through Proverbs. I’ve read through that particular book of the Bible many times, but, like so much of God’s Word, I’m always surprised at how much new stuff I learn when I go back to Proverbs. The wisdom contained in that book is just amazing, and there are several themes we see there. One theme that jumps out at me every time is that of controlling one’s speech.

The authors of Proverbs have plenty to say about taming the tongue. Here’s just a sample:

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. (11:13)

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)

A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly. (12:23)

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (13:3)

It’s clear from the Bible that the best course of action is to avoid speaking up when there’s any doubt. One verse that always hits me like a ton of bricks is this one:

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (17:28)

Along the same lines, Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

I’ll admit I’m the world’s worst at it, but I can see the value in keeping my mouth shut. I wish I could do it more often. It’s an easy temptation to fire off at the mouth when someone breaks in line, when the boss is unreasonable, when family members create drama, or when someone else says something stupid.

How much better would the world be if everyone thought before they spoke, or…even better…if people chose more often not to speak at all? How more wise would all of us appear? Isn’t it worth resisting that easy temptation?

Perseverance Equals Strength

I’m continually in awe of the nuggets of truth I uncover when I read Proverbs. One verse in particular struck me this week; Proverbs 24:10 (NIV) reads, “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”

As I’ve mulled over that verse, I’ve thought of plenty of examples that demonstrate the great strength of those who persevere. Job didn’t waver in the face of great tragedy, not to mention the prompting by his friends to give up. The early church in Acts held firm despite widespread persecution, and many people had faith that Jesus would heal them even in the most dire of circumstances.

For a non-Biblical example, I’m reading a book about the history of American conservatism, and the author spent an entire chapter on the growth and coalescence of the conservative movement in the 1960s and 70s that led to Reagan’s elections. The various conservative factions banded together in a difficult era to promote a fairly unified vision and achieve success.

In the last year and ten months, I’ve seen my share of troubling times, both in the church and in my personal life. I’m grateful that God has given me the strength to persevere and not falter.

In what ways can you see God’s strength helping you stand firm? In what ways could you use more of His help?

Correct Me If I’m Wrong, But…

OK, who among us loves to be corrected? Who just gets excited about receiving constructive criticism? Neither do I. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I hate it sometimes…most of the time. It’s most definitely not easy to accept rebuke or correction. If I’m not careful, my tendency is to bow up, get defensive, or just dismiss the criticism altogether. I may not do any of those things externally, but the attitude is often there.

I’ll go ahead and say it right here: accepting correction is probably one of the biggest things I need to work on in my life. Maybe that’s why certain verses sprinkled all over Proverbs have jumped out at my this time through in the daily reading plan.

“A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.”  (17:10)

“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” (15:31)

“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.” (13:1)

“He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” (10:17, all scriptures NIV)

…and those are just a few of the examples. It’s a natural tendency to think that the one who are wise are the ones who have it all together, but right here in the Word is states that we’re wise when we take constructive, beneficial correction and apply it to our lives! As a fragile, failing human being, it’s actually refreshing to think that the path to wisdom lies in the corrective actions that take place after my failures. Here’s hoping that I (and all of you) can take the necessary steps to become wiser when these opportunities arise.

The Easy Way? (or, you never know what thoughts stem from random childhood memories)

psssssstI had a random memory the other day… Anyone who grew up in the 70’s remember Psssssst? I have a specific memory of the stuff. When I was about six years old, our family had to go somewhere (church, maybe, or out to eat?), and I had come in from playing outside. My hair was oily and dirty, as a boy’s hair often is, and there wasn’t time to get a bath or shower, so my exasperated mom pulled out an aerosol can and sprayed its contents generously on my hair. As if by magic, my hair was (relatively) clean and no longer oily. I was stunned! I asked my mom what the stuff, which I noticed was called Psssssst, was; she replied, “dry shampoo.”

She might as well have parted the Red Sea. This stuff was a miracle! You probably could have seen the wheels turning in my head. I had it all figured out; there was an easier way. I no longer needed to wash my hair. I decided to put my theory to work: the next night, I took a bath and didn’t wash my hair. When my mom noticed, she asked me why I didn’t wash my hair. My reply was, “I’ll just use that spray stuff.” She marched me right back into the bathroom, where I had to wash my hair.

One night later, I figured I’d beat her at this game; I went ahead and sprayed that junk on my hair before I got out of the tub. Somehow, she was on to me. She asked me what I was doing, as if she didn’t really know, and she proceeded to explain to me that the dry shampoo didn’t really clean your hair, that it just masked the dirt and oil. “It’s a quick fix,” she said. “You still have to wash your hair.” And I did still have to wash my hair that night…and every night of my life since.

What’s the point of this story? I think it’s a natural human tendency to take the easy way, and I think we’re all prone to laziness in some way or another. How many get rich quick schemes are out there? How about quick weight loss scams and quick workouts that just don’t seem to get the job done? The human race is drawn to the easy, lazy way out of too many situations, from Adam and Eve (“You’ll be just like God…just take one bite.”) all the way down to all of us today (“I lost 40 pounds in 6 weeks,” as the fine print on the screen reads: Results Not Typical).

There’s a saying we’ve all heard: “Nothing worthwhile is easy.” It’s not entirely true; some things are easy, but much of the most rewarding and worthwhile things in life take some effort. I know this from personal experience. If I expended as much effort losing weight, getting in better shape, or cleaning the house as I have trying to find easy ways and shortcut to them, I’d be much better looking, and my book and CD shelves wouldn’t be so dusty. And I’d still have clean hair. But I believe the default human position is to look for the easy, comfortable way…and, let’s face it, to be lazy.

Proverbs is chock full of warnings against laziness: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4 NIV), to name but one. To get the most out of this abundant life we’re promised takes effort, diligence, and discipline. We should break out of the cycle of laziness and comfort and stop trying to find the easy way to live our lives.